Monday, September 29, 2008

China confident of continued growth as global business elites meet in Tianjin amid financial woes

Though faced with "the most difficult year" for its economy, China on Saturday showed a strong confidence in its sustained, rapid growth, with Premier Wen Jiabao telling a top-grade world economic forum that his country enjoys a favorable development environment as a whole.

"We have full confidence and capability to overcome various difficulties to ensure sound and fast growth of the national economy for an even longer period of time," said the premier while addressing the opening ceremony of the 2008 Summer Davos forum in Tianjin on Saturday afternoon.

And such a growth will be China's "greatest contribution" to the world economy under the current circumstances, said Wen during a brief question and answer session that followed his speech.

The two-day forum, also known as the Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2008, has drawn some 1,400 participants from nearly 90 countries and regions, most of whom are successful entrepreneurs and high-ranking government officials.

The meeting, second of its kind sponsored by the prestigious World Economic Forum, took place at a difficult time for the world economy, as a financial storm starting from the Wall Street rocked the globe and triggered widespread worries about economic slowdown or even depression.

"It has been an extraordinary few weeks on the financial markets, weeks with consequences across the global economy," said European Union Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, who is also in this north China metropolis to attend the forum, on Friday in a speech to the local European business people.

The costs of this crisis will be felt by all countries, including China through changing stock market sentiment, falling inward investment and a fall in export demand tied to falling consumer spending in Europe and the US, said Mandelson.

The Chinese premier also observed that the world economic environment is getting "tougher and more complex," with "exacerbated financial volatility" and "notable economic slowdown."

And this is just one of many "considerable difficulties" faced by the country, which also needs to address other prominent problems such as domestic price rises, a weak agriculture, energy and resources constraint, poor business management, and hidden problems in the financial sector.

"As I said earlier in the year, 2008 could be the most difficult year for China's economy," said Wen, who also cited natural calamities that struck the country in a row, including heavy snow and sleet storms in January and February and a devastating earthquake in May.

Nevertheless, he stressed that "the economic fundamentals in China remain unchanged" and the economy "is moving in the direction envisaged in the macro-economic control policy."

He listed out "many favorable conditions" for China to maintain its growth, including the rapid industrialization and urbanization process, abundant supply of labor and capital, huge potential of increased domestic consumption and investment demands, a vast domestic market, and improved ability of macroeconomic regulation.

But most of all, the premier's confidence derives from China's adoption of a correct development course, as reflected in the title of his speech: "Reform and Opening-up -- the Eternal Driving Force for China's Development."

"China's changes over the past three decades would not have been possible without reform and opening-up... Reform and opening-up must be carried on through the entire process of China's modernization drive," said Wen.

The fundamental solution to all problems China now faces, including unbalanced growth, pollution and corruption, lies in deepened reform, he stressed.

Applause burst out from time to time in the full-packed Plenary Hall of the Binhai International Convention & Exhibition Center, the meeting's venue, as the participants expressed their approval of Wen's words.

Many of them have come with the hope of finding a platform to pool the wisdom of business leaders and economic masterminds worldwide, to evaluate the impact of the current crisis and propose possible ways out.

They are also interested in what China will do in the face of the crisis, and whether the country could repeat its success in handling the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

"A crisis is often totally unexpected, and it always strikes at the most unlikely links," said veteran Chinese investor Wu Ying. "That's why we are here -- to react to the crisis with innovative methods and approaches of imaginative power."

Asked about his prescription for the current crisis, the Chinese premier emphasized international cooperation and -- more importantly -- confidence, on the parts of economists, entrepreneurs, the public and the state leaders. "At this moment, confidence is even more precious than gold or any currencies," he said.

And some key participants of the forum share China's confidence. Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, predicted on Friday that the world economy will see a slowdown in growth in the next one to three years, but China will remain the fastest-growing economy with a growth rate of seven to eight percent.

Founded four years ago for growing enterprises, even though some of them were just of medium or small size, the forum of the new champions has picked "The Next Wave of Growth" as the theme for the Tianjin meeting.

In the context of the financial woes, this theme appears even more significant, as many people have started to view the new businesses, whose growth is often driven by inspiration and innovation, as a major leading force of the global economic revival.

And more attention was paid to the emerging economies like Brazil, Russia, India and China.

The infrastructure improvement in the developing nations has given them more opportunities to embrace new technologies and the new economy, such as bio-techs, which will bring new growth, said Peer M. Schatz, chief executive officer of Germany's Qiagen company.

"These young companies have the potential to list among the Fortune 500 in next five to ten years," said Schwab of the more than 200 new champion companies that have come to the Tianjin forum.

And according to Premier Wen, China is ready to share its development opportunities with these new businesses, and Tianjin, designed to be "the economic center in north China" in the country's development blueprint, could be a perfect starting ground.

"Many of you are from growing enterprises that are most dynamic, competitive and full of development potential. You are welcome to invest in China, to start businesses in Tianjin and to seize the opportunity and pursue greater development," Wen told the forum participants at the opening ceremony.

Source: Xinhua

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